NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Titans running back Derrick Henry has been a terror for opposing defenses, especially the Jaguars. Henry ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns a year ago in Jacksonville, and he has a pair of 200-plus games against the Jaguars in his career. The NFL's leading rusher has put together a highlight reel of stiff-arms and long runs against Jaguar defenders over the years, and the Titans plan on riding him again on Sunday. There's no doubt the Jaguars will be geared up to stop him. The question is: Can they slow him down? Jacksonville is allowing 106.3 rushing yards per game so far this season, and just 3.46 yards per carry.
The Titans are 2-2 on the season, and in the two games they've lost they've allowed six sacks (vs Cardinals) and seven sacks (vs Jets), respectively. On the season, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked an NFL-high 17 times. Enough is enough, right? The Titans have talked all week about cleaning things up, and protecting the quarterback better. It's time to do it on a consistent basis. In four games, the Jaguars have tallied just five sacks on the season, led by Josh Allen (2) and Adam Gotsis (2). The Titans can't let these guys get going.
The Titans had several chances to put the Jets away last Sunday (sorry for bringing this up again), but they couldn't do it. Instead of a double-digit lead, the Titans managed just nine points on three possessions deep in New York territory, and eventually the Jets scored a touchdown of their own and, all of a sudden, the Titans found themselves in a dogfight with the previously winless Jets. It didn't end well, of course. The last time the Titans played in Jacksonville (Dec 13, 2020), they jumped out to a 17-3 lead by halftime, and they won 31-10. The Titans need to make the Jaguars lose interest early with a fast start, by scoring touchdowns.
Fluster the Rookie QB
This was a category in Six Things to Watch last week, too, and it didn't go so well for the Titans. That's because the Titans allowed Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to get comfortable, and he burned them with big plays. On Sunday, the Titans will face another rookie QB in Trevor Lawrence, who has a big arm, and he can move. In four games this season, Lawrence has thrown five touchdowns vs seven interceptions. Lawrence played well in his last outing, when he completed 17-of-24 passes for 204 yards and a rushing TD in a close loss at Cincinnati. He didn't turn the ball over against the Bengals. The Titans need to fluster Lawrence with a rush, and force him into mistakes.
Stop the Run
The Jaguars, of course, would love to take pressure off of Lawrence by running the football with success. And, let's just say they're capable of doing just that if the Titans don't show up ready to go. Jaguars running back James Robinson is a talented back, and he's coming off a 78-yard, two-touchdown performance. In four games he's averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and he's part of an offense that's averaging 4.93 yards per carry on the ground. Lawrence is a part of the Jags rush attack as well, as he's picked up 82 yards himself this season. The Titans are ranked 8th in the NFL in run defense (yards per game). Against the Jaguars, they need to stiffen up and put the Jaguars in third-and-longs.
New Faces Back
Right now, things are starting to look a little better on the injury front when it comes to key players returning. Overall health? Well, that's not great, as the team put 23 players on the Injury Report this week. The good news, however, is receiver A.J. Brown and cornerback Caleb Farley were all full participants as the week progressed, and they'll be available to play. The hope is the Titans will get a boost from both of them. The question is: Just how much of a boost? Brown changed the game in Jacksonville a year ago with a seven-catch, 112-yard, 1-TD performance. The Titans would love to see him jumpstart things once again with his return.